Freestyle ski champ dies week after injury
January 19th, 2012
04:00 PM ET

Freestyle ski champ dies week after injury

[Updated at 4:44 p.m. ET] A Canadian freestyle skier who was seriously injured during practice in Utah last week has died, her family said Thursday in a statement released by her publicist.

Sarah Burke, 29, died Thursday morning at the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City, where she had been treated for injuries she suffered during a training run at Park City Mountain Resort's superpipe.

Burke reportedly fell while trying a trick and "whiplashed" onto her side at Park City Mountain Resort's superpipe on January 10, officials have said. She ruptured a vertebral artery in the fall, leading to an intracranial hemorrhage that caused her to go into cardiac arrest at the accident site, according to a statement released by her publicist, Nicole Wool.

Emergency workers gave her CPR at the site, during which time she remained without a pulse or voluntary breathing. She was taken to a hospital, where she was put on life support and underwent successful surgery to repair the artery - one of four major arteries supplying blood to the brain - the next day, according to the statement.

But after the surgery, tests determined she suffered "irreversible damage to her brain due to lack of oxygen and blood after cardiac arrest," the statement reads.

"Sarah passed away peacefully surrounded by those she loved," according to the statement.

Burke, a native of Ontario who lived in British Columbia, was 11th in the Association of Freeskiing Professionals overall rankings last year. She won four gold medals in the Winter X Games, the event she was training for at the time of last week's accident. She also won gold at the 2005 world championships in Finland and in 2007 received ESPN’s Best Female Action Sports Athlete award.

Burke is considered a pioneer of freestyle skiing and was a major force in getting the ski halfpipe event added to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Peter Judge, CEO of the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association, said last week.

The Canadian Freestyle Ski Association said on its Facebook page Thursday that it "sends its heartfelt condolences to the family of Sarah Burke."

Last week, Judge told reporters in a conference call that he didn't think the incident would damage the reputation of a sport that had just been added to the Olympic lineup.

"I think the sport in general is extremely safe. Obviously, there are inherent risks in any sport," he said. "Safety and athlete safety is one of the things that is paramount within our sport."

He added that often, because of the perceived dangers of the sport, those involved with it go above and beyond to ensure safety. He said there hadn't been a major freestyle incident in nearly 35 years. Still, Judge said, they would be looking at what happened to cause the accident to see whether anything needed to be reexamined.

"When there's an injury," Judge said last week, "you always do a full audit to understand what the root cause is and whether you can make anything safer."

People flooded Burke's Facebook page with messages of support after her fall. Her family, which thanked her friends and doctors for their care, said it "was moved by the sincere and heartfelt sympathy expressed by people inspired by Sarah from all around the world," and that a public celebration of her life would be held in the coming weeks.

The family, noting that it has received many inquiries from people who wanted to make a contribution in Burke's memory, said people could go to for more information.

soundoff (387 Responses)
  1. Bill

    It pains me to see young lives cut short. May she rest in peace and may her family find comfort.

    January 21, 2012 at 1:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Well...

      That's one way to look at it. Here's another. Burke wasn't about excellence in physical fitness or self defense. There are wise ways to approach these, but they don't get you so much attention. No, she was an adrenaline junkie, a self destructive thrill-seeker who wanted to get as close to death as she could then to shiver with exquisite delight when she escaped its clutches. Well, this time nature caught her and didn't let her go. In a way she's like David Carradine. Her underlying cause of death was auto-erotic life asphyxiation.

      January 21, 2012 at 7:22 am | Report abuse |
    • reality

      To all the meek unadventurous souls who don't understand pushing limits and excelling at anything let me say this. . . It has nothing to with cheating death or getting closetodeath it is about fully living life, embracing life andbeing alive. Hi suspect you know nothing of this and will die without having truly lived

      January 21, 2012 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  2. uhohforthisho

    I'm a cold hearted SOB and I even had a tear in my after reading this story. Tragic, so sad.

    January 21, 2012 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
  3. Daniel Bustamante

    Rest in peace., she will be remembered by all of us that are in the winter sports., she was a role model and we are all very very sad..

    January 21, 2012 at 3:12 am | Report abuse |
  4. tcaros

    I guess she wont be trying that trick again.

    January 21, 2012 at 3:59 am | Report abuse |
  5. tcaros

    I guess she wont be trying that trick again. This reminds me of the 2 thrill seekers in CA who went 4 wheeling in the dark and found dead the next day. There are consequences for doing stuff we find dangerous.

    January 21, 2012 at 4:08 am | Report abuse |
  6. tcaros

    The moral here is don't do tricks, skiing is dangerous enough.
    Sonny Bono and Michael Kennedy died in skiing accidents. It's a dangerous thing already. Don't need to tempt fate.

    January 21, 2012 at 4:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Hugh Jass

      You don't get out much I guess.

      January 21, 2012 at 5:50 am | Report abuse |
  7. Rick1948

    Some people decide to live their lives on the edge and, frankly, probably have more fun because they do. Sometimes their lives end in tragedy and most of the time they do not. If she died doing what she loved, then good for her. At least she didn't die from a stress related heart attack while sitting in a cubicle.

    January 21, 2012 at 8:10 am | Report abuse |
  8. suzanne

    Sarah Burke was awesome and amazing and beautiful and all that we would like to be but aren't, and she is gone, and it's a sad day for us and that's what is important. RIP Sarah,

    January 21, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  9. darkhorse

    I'm tired of hearing threats to abolish "dangerous" sports. Don't think for a moment that in all her years of training, she had no idea of the dangers of the sport. It's brave souls like HER that strive for true excellence in a world where the participation trophy-mentality is gaining popularity. We lost another great one.

    January 21, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Sorrow for Sarah

    Geez, if the price of a soul must be paid this day, then do humanity a favor.. please take Newt Gingrich or Herman Cain, and send Sarah Back.

    January 22, 2012 at 3:29 am | Report abuse |
  11. Wow!

    Very sad story. So young, so tragic. R.I.P, Sarah Burke...

    January 22, 2012 at 8:23 am | Report abuse |
  12. Samuel Getaneh Bogale Calgary Alberta

    Very sad, very tragic to die so young!!!

    January 22, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  13. promotion web

    This article on gives the light in which we can observe the reality.

    January 24, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • scott

      ahhhhhhh..whats that?

      February 14, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
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    May 30, 2012 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
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